MICHAEL Flynn believes a spell away from Newport County AFC with League Two rivals Exeter City showed Robbie Willmott that "the grass isn't always greener".

It looked like the stalwart's time in amber had come to an end when he left on loan in January ahead of his contract expiring in the summer.

Willmott said after making the switch to the Grecians that he had been given "a new lease of life" and that he "needed a change and my confidence levels were low".

However, he did not make a permanent move to St James Park and instead negotiated a fresh deal with County.

Willmott was a fringe figure in the first half of last season but played the full 90 as the Exiles started League Two with a win at Oldham Athletic.

The 31-year-old is primarily a winger but can play in a number of positions and switched around with Lewis Collins and Jermaine Hylton to influence the game at Boundary Park, having joy from the left wing in the second half.

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"We just dominated the left more than we did the right and he was clever enough to know that was where the space was," said manager Flynn.

The boss hopes to reap the rewards of a reinvigorated Willmott, wherever he chooses to pick the utility man.

"He has come back to the club, is hungry and was superb in pre-season. He earned his spot to play at Oldham, simple as that," said Flynn.

"Robbie has been really good and hopefully that continues, because he is much more experienced. The move away sometimes shows the grass isn't always greener and gives you a new lease of life.

"But there are a lot of the squad that have a chance in that position, we've got Finn Azaz [on loan from Aston Villa] who is getting closer to full fitness and Jermaine Hylton can play there.

"We've got a lot of options in those areas."

Flynn's team selection is shaped by niggles with centre-back Priestley Farquharson and Hylton among those struggling from the starting line-up at Oldham.

Veteran forward Kevin Ellison scored the winner at Boundary Park and started in the Carabao Cup game at Ipswich but limped off in the closing stages.

The Stags are assessing midfielder Harry Charsley and defender Elliott Hewitt, who have both been sidelined by thigh problems.

Forwards Oliver Hawkins and Danny Johnson may return to the starting XI after each scoring in last weekend's 2-1 win over Bristol Rovers, then coming out of the side for the 3-0 Carabao Cup loss to Preston on Tuesday.

There were four changes in total for the cup tie – James Perch and Stephen Quinn were also taken out of the team by boss Nigel Clough, the latter after taking "a couple of knocks".

Republic of Ireland international Quinn, 35, was hugely influential in the 1-1 draw between the sides at Field Mill at the end of last season.

County looked set to put the heat on rivals for the automatic promotion spots when captain Joss Labadie intercepted in midfield, drove to the box and fired under Aidan Stone.

However, Mansfield shared the spoils thanks to a late strike by Tyrese Sinclair.

Today's fixtures: Barrow v Hartlepool, Bradford v Oldham, Bristol Rovers v Stevenage, Colchester v Northampton, Leyton Orient v Exeter, Mansfield v County, Port Vale v Tranmere, Rochdale v Scunthorpe, Salford v Sutton, Swindon v Carlisle, Walsall v Forest Green.